End of summer produce windfalls

It's that time of year again: when you feel like everyday you harvest at least a wheelbarrow full of vegetables from the garden; when you have more garden fresh produce than you could possibly know what to do with; when friends and family stop answering your calls because they're afraid you'll pawn off even more squash or zucchini on them; when you have to burn up work vacation days, just to keep up with all your canning, drying and other preserving projects.

Abundant mid to late summer harvests can sometimes make you feel as if you are completely drowning in zucchini, tomatoes, peppers and other garden fresh produce. You can bombard local food pantries with your surplus vegetables; or play ding-dong- ditch- the-zucchini- on- your- neighbor's-porch; or you can fire up the grill and throw an end of the season BBQ, with new, unique dishes that will have your neighbors and friends begging for your extra produce.

When it comes to grilling garden fresh vegetables and herbs, tinfoil packets of nicely cut up vegetables with herbs and butter usually come to mind. While these grill roasted foil packets are a delicious old standard, there are other ways to cook herbs and vegetables on the grill that can better enhance the natural flavors of the vegetables and herbs; creating uniquely flavored vegetables instead of just butter flavored vegetables.

Think outside the traditional grilled veggie packets

Instead of packing tinfoil pouches with the usual potatoes, carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, peppers, zucchini, summer squash, onions and etc, consider making veggie kabobs with these vegetables instead. Take your kabobs to another level of flavor by adding other garden fresh produce, that people would normally not think to grill, such as cherry tomatoes, radishes, and even fresh fruits like apples, pears, peaches and pineapple. And don't just stop there, marinade or glaze these garden fresh BBQ skewers with homemade marinades, sauces, oils and vinegars made from your surplus garden herbs, such as sage, rosemary, oregano, basil and cilantro.

Kid-friendly grilled pizzas

Got a picky kid or family member that won't touch a side dish of vegetables? Try grilling homemade veggie pizzas. You can use your favorite canned or jarred store bought pizza sauce or make your own from tomatoes and herbs from your own gardens. To make homemade grilled pizzas even more unique, you can throw out the traditional pizza sauce idea completely and use your own homemade BBQ sauce, pesto, tzatziki, Alfredo or other sauces. Kids will even enjoy helping put together homemade pizzas for the grill, and may suggest unique toppings you hadn't even considered using from the garden.

Use grilled veggies for unique sandwich buns

Let's face it, when you invite friends over for a barbecue, most of your guests will expect the traditional grilled meats like, burgers, brats, hot dogs, chicken or steak; not just grilled veggies. You can give the people what they want and add your own garden flare to it. Instead of traditional hamburger or hot dog buns, grill up slices or strips of zucchini, summer squash or eggplant to use as buns for sliders, brats or hotdogs. These "buns" can be breaded and seasoned for a more traditional bun appearance or marinated before grilling them or they can be lightly basted with oil and herbs as they're grilled directly on the grill to promote their own natural flavors and appearance.

Use your fresh herbs on the grill

Meats like steak or chicken breasts can even be grilled with a garden fresh vibe. Baste lightly with oil then place long sprigs of sturdy stemmed herbs, like rosemary, sage, mint, lavender or oregano directly on the grates of the grill, and place steaks, chicken breasts or etc, right on top of your herbs of choice, to sear the herbs' flavor into the meat. You can also use the thick, sturdy stems of some herbs, such as rosemary, as skewer sticks for grilled meat kabobs. Serve these steaks, chicken breasts or kabobs over a bed of lightly grilled Swiss chard, romaine lettuce, kale or cabbage. Oh yes, you can grill your leafy green vegetables, too.

Add some herbs to your smoker

Got a freezer full of frozen herb filled ice cube trays? At our house, we keep a small cast iron skillet on the grill, that we fill with different types of wood chips to add different smoked flavors to our grilled masterpieces. This makeshift smoke-box is ideal for using up frozen herb-filled ice cubes to add rich, smoked herb flavors to any grilled dish. Simply fire up the grill, warm up the skillet and wood chips, throw in an herb ice cube or two, and watch as all your neighbor's come outside trying to figure out where the amazing aroma is coming from.

When all else fails, stuff it or wrap it in bacon; or do both.

Sadly, many people are triggered by unpleasant memories when the subject of stuffed vegetables come up. You don't have to use grandma's old recipe of green peppers stuffed with rice and hamburger, though. Instead stuff garden fresh peppers, onions, tomatoes, eggplant and different squashes, with homemade pesto, tzatziki, or cream cheese, bleu cheese or other cheese mixtures that include garden fresh herbs, and other ingredients such as crab meat, bacon bits, chicken and, yes even hamburger, then throw these stuffed veggies on the grill. Make a new spin on caprese salad, with grilled caprese stuffed beefsteak tomatoes.

We all know at least one person, who would eat nothing but bacon, if they could. Even these people can enjoy garden fresh, grilled recipes when they are wrapped in bacon. Instead of just throwing some ears of corn on the grill, first slather the ears with mayo or cream cheese, then wrap them in strips of bacon and grill until the bacon is cooked to your preferred taste. Honestly, my favorite new stuffed and bacon wrapped recipe of this past summer, was cream cheese stuffed jalapeno peppers that I wrapped with bacon and grilled to perfection, simply because we were up to our eyeballs in jalapeno peppers. Basically, if you can grow it, you can wrap it in bacon and grill it.

It never hurts to experiment!

While I have touched on a lot of different ways to incorporate the grill in your garden fresh recipes, there are still many other unique recipes out there and new ones you can come up with yourself, with just a little outside-the-tinfoil thinking. As you're grilling up new garden fresh creations for your barbecue guests, don't forget about the after dinner cocktails. Throw some pineapple wedges on the grill to dress up summer cocktails, or accessorize bloody mary's with grilled pickles, cucumbers or etc. You can even grill up some cinnamon sticks and apple rings to dress up warm ciders or mulled wines for autumn bonfires.